My Odd Fellows Lodge in Davis, CA currently has 29 applicants for membership – that number is larger than the entire membership of many of our Lodges throughout North America. How can there be such a dramatic juxtaposition in membership numbers between Lodges? I think the explanation is both simple and complex.

The simple part is that my Odd Fellows Lodge WANTS new members and actively encourages that effort. There are, in contrast, other Lodges that are content with their existing membership (they like things just the way they are) and either make no effort to bring in new members (complacent) or make such limited efforts that the number of new members who come in through initiation is exceeded by the number of members who die or don’t renew.

The complex part is that there are Lodges that actually wish to add members, but don’t really know how (ineffectual).

In this newsletter, I’m not going to address the complacent Lodges. To be brutally candid, they have a very myopic view of our fraternity – not a long view – and will likely be gone within a generation. The landscape of America is already littered with Lodge buildings that no longer house Odd Fellows – sad, silent markers of the Golden Age of Fraternities. I will address the Lodges that wish to add members, but don’t quite know how to go about it effectively. These Lodges appreciate the unique character of fraternal life – they understand that while the human life span rarely exceeds 100 years, a fraternity can live for centuries if the membership is active and dynamic, and replenishes itself.

I honestly believe that there is a place for fraternal orders in the 21st Century. The twin desires for social interaction and to make a positive difference in our world are strong. But to be relevant to the men and women of the new generations (those folks in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s) the fraternity cannot simply look inward. Having formal meetings and following our ritual are important and make us uniquely Odd Fellows. But it is not enough. We must look outward as well. In the 21st Century Odd Fellows must be active in their communities, and Odd Fellows Lodges must provide an active social and community agenda where we can emphasize the “friendship” and “love” aspects of our three links fraternity.

The best way I can explain this new way of outward thinking is to give you an example of a fairly typical few days at the Davis Lodge:

Last Thursday evening we gathered of our “Club Night at the Lodge” – a social gathering that takes place at the Lodge Hall every Thursday evening. Members, applicants for membership (we call them “Pledges” in our Lodge) family and friends enjoyed live piano music, an open bar with low “Club Night” prices, a buffet dinner prepared by our Lodge chef, three rounds of trivia (with prizes for the winning tables), and lots of social time.

On Friday evening, one of our 70 Lodge committees, the “Odd Fellows Wine Club” gathered at the home of a member to enjoy wine tasting. Attendees brought designated wines and snacks to share. Over the two-hour event, there was plenty of time to catch up with our Lodge Brothers and Sisters.

On Saturday morning, members and pledges came to the Lodge for our monthly breakfast meeting. A complementary breakfast, prepared by members, is served buffet style to the attendees at 8:45 a.m. and then a Lodge social meeting is convened at 9:31 a.m. (The Lodge holds a formal meeting on the 4th Wednesday of the month and a social meeting on the 2nd Saturday of the month.) Approximately 10 minutes after the adjournment of the Lodge meeting, the Davis Encampment called its monthly meeting to order. Most of the meeting is taken up by reports from our committees which span a wide range of endeavors and activities.

Sunday at the Lodge was a busy day. At 10 a.m. the Lodge’s “Taste of Davis” Committee gathered to start planning the 2024 Taste of Davis (the 15th year of this community event which features 30 restaurants, wineries and breweries from the community). At 12 noon the doors opened for our Second Sunday Bingo in the Lower Hall of the Lodge. We have offered Bingo for the community every month since 2007 – proceeds are donated to a local community or charitable group. The Upper Hall of the Lodge was used for painting of segments of the Lodge’s Picnic Day float (Picnic Day is a big annual event in Davis, and the Lodge has entered a float in the Picnic Day Parade for years). In addition, a Super Bowl Watch Party, organized by our Sports Committee, took place in the Upper Hall on our big-screen projection system which attracted over 50 Odd Fellows, family and friends.

And here’s the secret sauce: Virtually every time we engage in a community event, members of the public ask us about our fraternity, and we have the opportunity to talk about Odd Fellowship and our Lodge.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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